Africa’s only LGBTIQ+ shelter, Pride Shelter in Cape Town, has recently been undertaken by new management, which has raised concerns from the community.
The shelter has been operating for over a decade with the purpose of providing and affirming temporary shelter for the queer community and LGBT+ individuals experiencing a crisis or trauma.
The initiative was launched in 2006 by Ian McMahon and Andrew Massyn and late HIV activist Glenn de Swardt. In 2011 the Pride Shelter opened its doors in Oranjezicht where it gained the reputation as the only formal LGBTIQ+ shelter in Africa, accommodating over 700 LGBTIQ+ individuals and aids over the
Today, the community members are asking about changes to the management, with concerns that a faith-based organisation, Inner Circle operating as Al-Fitrah Foundation, had taken over the running of the secular service. This has left questions on whether shelter would now favour or only cater to
LGBTIQ+ members of the Muslim faith.
Founding member of the previous Pride Shelter Trust Board, McMahon says that a lack of consistent and sufficient funding meant that the shelter faced possible closure. Therefore, “we looked at it and asked if it was responsible for us to carry on or do we go and find some other organisation that maybe has
funding and is better structured than us and that can raise funds,” he says.
In 2018, a request for proposals was set out by the board to have other LGBTIQ+ organisations sought out as possible partners. Al-Fitrah had submitted the best proposal and the two entities made an agreement to jointly run the shelter for a three-month trial, after which Al-Fitrah completely took over
the management of the facility in March 2019.
Al-Fitrah is a human rights organisation that advocates for the rights and dignity of queer Muslims, established in 1995.
Nicole Alexander, Convenor of Al-Fitrah, says “Its central aim is to reconcile individuals with their gender identity, sexual orientation whilst raising consciousness through Islamic perspectives. In addition, it also aims to promote safe spaces in the context of Islam as a culture that promotes inclusion”.
Alexander is aware of the rumours about the shelter takeover, but confirms that the shelter’s services are “not only targeted to believers of the Muslim faith and accommodate all races, all classes, all genders in our facility”.
Citing the terms of the handover, Alexander says that Al-Fitrah will “continue to make the premises a safe space for all who require the service without any religious conditions being implemented as part of intake of future residents. And that services will be available to all who require it, without religious
“I think many people started panicking based on their lack of research or critical skills. Just because an organisation with an Islamic name took over the shelter, doesn’t mean it should be demonised or that ill-respect should be afforded to their efforts,” states Alexander.